The Criminal Trial

The trial is divided into different parts. Unfortunately trials are not as exciting as they appear on television. The first part of a trial is the jury selection. This is done by the Judge asking general questions to make sure that the people in the jury pool, called the venire, are qualified to sit on a jury. The lawyers in Alabama are then allowed to ask questions of the jurors as a group and then follow-up those general questions with questions to individual jurors. After both side’s lawyers have asked their questions they are then allowed to remove a certain number of jurors. The jury is then selected from those left after the strikes. Generally in a criminal trial there are twelve jurors with two alternates.

After the jury selection the lawyers for both sides give opening statements. Opening statements can be a simple statement of what the lawyer believes the facts will be to an impassioned plea for the lawyer’s client.

The witnesses are called to testify after the opening arguments. The lawyer who calls the witness asks a series of questions, which is called direct examination. The opposing attorney asks questions of the witness, which is called cross-examination. The attorney that called the witness gets to ask questions again, which is called redirect.

After the witnesses testify and the evidence is presented, the lawyers give closing arguments. Each attorney tells the jury what he or she believed the evidence proved and what he believes the law is.

The Judge then gives the jury charges, which is called charging the jury. This is where the Judge states the law and the elements of the crime the jury must find to convict the person.

If the jury finds the person guilty then the Judge will sentence the person. Sentencing can be done immediately after trial or can be postponed until a pre-sentence or probation report is prepared.

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